Yummy mummies can get dirty: New BMW X5 can go off-road
THE numbers don't lie. BMW's top three selling vehicles last year were all SUVs with the once staple 3 Series sedan, a distant fourth.
SUVs accounted for more than half the company's annual sales despite representing just a quarter of the portfolio.
That makes this new X5, the fourth generation of a vehicle that has notched more than 2 million sales globally, crucial to the company's local success.
The new X5 shares its basic underpinnings with the 7 Series and the X3, X4 and X6.
BMW has stretched the distance between its front and rear wheels by 42mm while the overall length and it's also wider and taller. That all translates into more head, shoulder and knee room.
The M50d will be the flagship model, a mantle it wears well.
On the international launch, it proved a rewarding drive with its revolutionary quad-turbocharged, three-litre, six-cylinder diesel engine delivering 760Nm of torque from just 2000rpm.
Both on-road and through the rocky and muddy mountainous terrain along the outskirts of Atlanta, the M50d's monstrous torque made light work of the slippery and steep conditions.
Expected to be the volume seller, the xDrive30d is a capable unit with 620Nm on tap from 2000rpm and 195kW, while a plug-in hybrid option is also on the cards, though at the time of our drive, there was no news on whether it will be offered in Australia.
For the first time, the X5 can be considered a proper, go-almost-anywhere off-roader as there's now an off-road pack available.
The range has been split into the xLine aimed at the adventurous outdoor types and the M-Sport, which stays true to the M badge by being a sports-focused, city alternative.
The xLine features additional aluminium highlights in the now comically oversized kidney-shaped grille, along with roof rails and brushed alloy side window trim, while the M-Sport is differentiated by unique trim on the wheel arches and bumper and body-coloured side skirts.
The xLine features a button offering four driving modes for sand, rock, gravel or snow and alters its ride height, throttle response and the mapping from the eight-speed automatic transmission to suit.
Our off-roading consisted of muddy, steep hills with some side slip and it managed to nicely place enough power on the correct corner so as not to bury itself with wheel spin, while the increased ride height helped it over steep ruts.
The hill decent control removed any fears on slippery downhill descents.
The package includes a clever new two-axle air suspension with ride height adjustment of up to 80mm, active four-wheel steering and active roll stabilisation which allows the front to operate independently from the rear.
In Sport mode the ride height drops by 20mm while the driver can also raise it up to 40mm to give it an impressive 540mm wading depth.
Extra-large air intakes at the front give the M-Sport a more muscular look while the grille, roof rails, side window surrounds and other trim are painted in high-gloss black.
A throaty exhaust note adds to its sporty flavour.
The M-Sport will also be the first BMW to offer 22-inch rims as an option.
Inside, everywhere you look is new, with multifunction seats offering several massage functions, four-zone climate control, heated armrests and heated and cooled cup holders.
The rear seats will have two optional 10.2-inch touchscreens from early next year and BMW Australia also hopes to add a third row seat at the same time.
Prices are yet to be confirmed as local specs and allocation are still being negotiated, but given the dramatic upgrade over the third generation, don't expect to cut the same deal you can get on the current model.
BMW X5 M50d
PRICE $150,000 (est)
SA FETY Not tested
ENGINE 3.0-litre quad-turbocharged 6-cyl diesel; 294kW/760Nm
THIRST 7.2 L/100km
SPARE space saver
0-100KM/H 5.2 seconds